Tri-county officials urge public to be mindful of fuel conservation, avoid hoarding amid pipeline shutdown

A line of cars twists around the Scotchman-Exxon gas station on Lake Park Boulevard, Monday, September 17, 2018. (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)
The Colonial Pipeline supplies 45% of the East Coast’s fuel, but amid the shutdown cars have been panic-buying fuel, causing gas stations to run out of supply. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

SOUTHEASTERN NC — Not even 24 hours after Gov. Roy Cooper determined North Carolina under a state of emergency, in the aftermath of Colonial Pipeline’s ransomware cyber attack last week, tri-county officials are urging the public to ease up on panic-buying fuel.

“That drives the shortage,” New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman said in a release.

RELATED: Stations run out of fuel, consumers congest roadways from panic-buying after Colonial Pipeline shutdown


Sheila Whitmeyer felt the pinch firsthand today on her way to a doctor’s appointment. Halfway to “E,” she pulled her vehicle into a Shell station in Monkey Junction, only to find the pumps empty by the time her turn arrived.

“Then I drove by other stations in Monkey Junction, and they all had bags on them — all out,” she said.

When Whitmeyer tried again on her ride back from the doctor, she experienced the same scenario: long lines and low supply. Only it was also punctuated by aggressive drivers that cut her off while she was waiting in line.

“I put my hands in the air … rude, rude,” she said with a laugh. “So I just went home — hoping for a better tomorrow.”

Olson-Boseman refrained from issuing a state of emergency in New Hanover since Colonial noted it will be up and running by the end of the week. However, the chairwoman said she will continue to follow the situation and asked individuals “to conserve fuel by limiting non-essential outings.”

To the north of New Hanover in Pender County, board of commissioners chairman George Brown pulled the trigger on declaring a state of emergency. He mirrored Olson-Boseman’s request for drivers to be mindful of their gas purchases to help avert prolonged shortages and spikes that could worsen the situation.

“Motorists are asked to purchase only what fuel is immediately needed and to avoid filling the tank until the pipeline resumes operations,” Brown said.

Along with Pender County Manager Chad McEwen, Brown assured all essential Pender staff and emergency personnel — including DSS, public health, utilities, the sheriff’s office and emergency management — will be able to travel to and from work in order to serve the needs of its citizenry.

Twenty-five miles south, Brunswick County spokesperson Meagan Kascsak also confirmed the local government was safeguarding fuel for internal purposes that “support emergency services, public safety, and critical utility and infrastructure needs.”

Brunswick officials urged consumers to follow below tips, issued by the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Minimize idling your car by turning off your engine when your vehicle is parked for more than 10 seconds. Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use, adding up to three cents of wasted fuel a minute. In the winter, most manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds. The engine will warm up faster being driven, which will allow the heat to turn on sooner, decrease your fuel costs, and reduce emissions.
  • Drive sensibly and avoid aggressive driving, such as speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking. Aggressive driving  can lower your highway gas mileage by up to 33% and your city mileage by 5%.
  • Avoid high speeds. Above 50 mph, gas mileage drops rapidly. For every 5 mph above 50 mph, it’s like paying an additional $0.19 per gallon of gasoline. 
  • Reduce drag by placing items inside the car or trunk rather than on roof racks, which can decrease your fuel economy by up to 8% in city driving and up to 25% at Interstate speeds. 
  • Avoid keeping heavy items in your car; an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could increase your gas costs by up to $.03 cents per gallon.
  • Combine errands. Several short trips, each one taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
  • Check into telecommuting, carpooling, public transit and active transportation like bicycling or walking to save on fuel and car maintenance costs. Many urban areas provide carpool lanes that are usually less congested, which means you will get to work and home faster and more refreshed.

Colonial shared an update at 5:15 p.m., noting the one manual line still operating is prioritizing markets that may be facing low inventory, as well as markets that don’t get replenished from other fueling suppliers. The company announced it delivered 970,000 barrels today to various points on the pipeline route, including stops in the Carolinas in Spartanburg, Charlotte, and Greensboro.

According to Colonial, it also delivered “an additional 2 million barrels from refineries for deployment upon restart” and “increased aerial patrols of [the] pipeline right of way and deployed more than 50 personnel to walk and drive — 5,000 miles of pipeline each day.”


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